HELP! Which used van should I buy?

I am an acupuncturist and do trade shows & events, so I bought a Mazda3 for the massage table, folding table, chairs, etc. Great little car, 40mpg, blah blah blah. But now I am doing SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) which involves camping while pretending I’m living in the past. I need all my work stuff, PLUS tents (including long tent poles) and clothes and food and… yeah, I need lots of room. The Mazda can’t tow, so just doing a trailer is out.

Two passengers, up to 4.
I prefer decent clearance, since the events are sometimes on farms and other rough land.
I prefer better mileage, since events are often hours away.
I prefer something reliable, since events are often hours away. :slight_smile:

Today I drove a 2006 Grand Caravan with 100K and liked it. At least it fit me (I’m 4’10" so that’s an issue). The stow-and-go seats were pretty sweet. Can I trust a used one? I also have a 2000 AWD Astro offered to me. 75K miles and very clean, but I am thinking that the lack of a right rear door would be a PITA. Plus it would suck gas. I’m very open to options. I was initially thinking I’d spend about $5000. I can spend more than that by dipping into the house fund, but there’s no way I’m going over 10K.

Any advice on common problems to look for, wave-offs on specific brands/ models, etc all welcome.

Oops lack of a LEFT rear door, of course. :slight_smile:

Take your stuff you think you’ll be hauling, people included, and try out a Mazda 5. Gets pretty decent mpgs for a small minivan

I have the 3 now and the 5 is not a big enough difference. MVP, maybe.

Whoops ignore that, I was thinking of the CX5. The 5 is possible!

The Mazda 5 would be a great option if you can find one under your budget, would a Honda Element be big enough? (fold the back seats when you don’t need them) same engine/design as the '02-06 CRV.

No, definitely not big enough. My boyfriend will have a full set of armor for fighting, for goodness sake.

You could get a Toyota Sienna from around the same era as the Grand Caravan, overall it has a better track record. The Astro’s not a bad choice if you can live with only 3 side doors.

The MPV would have the same lack of size as the other suggestions, what i think you need is a VW Vangon Syncro but the problem is most of the good ones cost way more than $10k.

I like compact to midsize SUVs of which there are a plethora to choose from. Choose a 4 cylinder for some semblance of economy you will never get entirely with the need for decent ground clearance. They all have fold near flat folding second row seats which give a lot of load space and are rough road capable. Next, a used 4 cylinder extended cab intermediate pick up in 2 wd might work.

Hmm. If a compact crossover won’t do (they have more room in them than you might expect) you either need a mid-sized crossover or a minivan. I’m definitely not wild about the Chryslers. Their reliability is weak. The Toyota Sienna is probably best (the notorious Honda Odyssey transmission wrecking an otherwise nice vehicle.) The Astro is a very simple trucky beast that was pooular with fleet operators, probably because it was easy to work on, not because it was especially reliable. For decades everyone did without that second rear slider. It’s a minor convenience, not a necessity. In the mid-sized crossover ranks the prices are often higher. The Honda Pilot or Toyota Highlander are typical, popular models. Cheaper are things like the formerly ubiquitous Ford Explorer and Edge and Chevy Traverse (and predecessors) . I just worry about what you can get for your budget. These vehicles sometimes lead hard lives.

The problem is that to stay within the budget means going to older models with over 100,000 miles, the repair history and condition of the particular vehicle mean as much as what brand of vehicle it is. A Toyota Highlander can be found within the budget but with 120,000 or more miles on the clock.

Actually, as far as I’m concerned the Astro has a few things going for it

Parts are relatively cheap and easy to find
Not especially difficult to diagnose and repair/service
Decent power
Pretty good towing ability

However, build quality is not that great . . . you gotta admit the interior materials are kinda cheesy
The driving position isn’t that great . . . that doghouse REALLY intrudes into the footwell

One advantage for the Astro is you are more likely to find a low mileage example in great shape for the budget, Just make sure that all is well mechanically.

Db, those are the features that made the Astro so popular with fleets. It wasn’t very well made, but it was straightforward and parts were cheap. For a person who likes working on their own car, it wold make some sense, but it isn’t very nice, or comfortable, or well equipped. And having the engine/transmission narrowing the footwell so drastically is not fun at all. The stretched wheelbase version is more desirable than the regular version. It holds a lot more stuff.